Occupational Therapist, Sascha has reflected on her experience as part of the COVID rehab team with a powerful piece of writing titled, ‘Reawakening’.
I walk towards you – barely moving, tethered to tubes, bags and lines.
You need help to breathe – to stay alive.
Even your voice can no longer be heard – a tube sits in your windpipe.
You look at me with tired eyes.
You cannot move under your own volition; your hands are swollen, your body moved by others.
Exhausted, surrendered to an alien environment; not able to question your surroundings and actions of those caring for you.
Unable to make your needs known.
This is heart-breaking.
You – a person with friends, family and part of a community.
You – a decision maker, a person with choices and views.
You are alone. You are vulnerable like a new born.
You depend on others to stay alive – to guide you through.
But you are not alone.
There are kind, caring and highly skilled people around you. They monitor, look and listen out for change – any gesture, noise and expression – even the look in your eyes. They are your parents, your confidantes. The people who clean and feed you and give your medications. Who persist. Who worry for and with you. Who encourage you. Who commit to doing their utmost – through despair, disappointment and set-backs onto a path they hope leads to re- emerging as a sentient being; a decision maker, a voice, leading a fulfilling life.
Who will you to survive.
I wonder – has your world crashed? You must have been so ill to come here. Did you feel panic when you could no longer breathe? Did your life drop into a black hole for a while – not being conscious for days on end?
What was it like to slowly wake up – feeling pain and discomfort; in a ‘science fiction’ like environment – bright lights, connected to many tubes and surrounded by telescopic arms mounted full of bleeping monitors. Unable to communicate – not quite knowing what happened and maybe with very bad dreams you couldn’t get out of or explain to yourself. And all of us in gowns, aprons, gloves, masks and face shields. How very frightening that must have been.
But you are emerging.
You are aware of where you are; you become familiar with the people around you and recognise their names. Your body and mind recognises routines and distractions. You remember who you are and where you’ve come from. You know that you are an important part of a ‘whole’ and that you are loved and missed. That people care. You can make your needs known. You can speak with help.
There are new people to see you now: You sit up and are hoisted into a chair. You can visit a lovely garden with help: fresh air, colour, flowers, smells and sounds of normality. You are encouraged to rehab – stretch your mind, increase you resilience and stamina, even sit on an exercise bike! You are becoming more independent and are able to sip a drink – even ask for a favourite coffee. You can brush your own teeth!
It is exhausting and hard work. But you can.
You are moving on, you are progressing.
You are becoming ‘YOU’ again.
I meet you again many days later – to see you walk toward your family, being ‘clapped out’. There will be more work for you but you are leaving us to go HOME.
Amazing and utterly moving. I don’t really know you – but I am proud of you.
Not everyone made it through – this horrible invisible COVID fiend has taken you. I hope you are all in a better space – you will not be forgotten.
I feel privileged to work in a system that offers free healthcare when you need it most; a sometimes maddening Goliath of a health-machine – but driven by a plethora of human hearts.